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To Skinn-finity And Beyond

February 26, 2021, 2:10 PM ET [52 Comments]
Mark Pino
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Inquiring minds want to know.

Did Jeff Skinner get paroled from Ralph Krueger's dog house yet?

If optics and words are any indication, Skinner has been released on good behavior.

Have Skinner and Ralph Krueger spoken about the what has happened and what will be done to prevent it from happening again in the future?

“We have talked,” said Skinner. “Again, I don’t feel like it’s constructive, I don’t think it’s respectful to get into details on what we’ve talked about or long we talked or any of those details.”

Skinner, who has scored one goal in 14 games this season, skated with his Sabres teammates on Friday morning. Yesterday, Skinner was healthy scratched for the third consecutive Sabres game. The Sabres are earned three of six points with Skinner in the press box for the loss to the Islanders, the regulation win over the Devils and the OT loss to the Devils.

On Thursday morning, Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger raised eyebrows when he announced on his media Zoom call that his $9 million annual average value winger Skinner was skating with the Sabres' taxi squad and not with the Sabres' main group.

On Friday afternoon following his team's practice, Skinner sat in the hot seat and shared his thoughts on the natural hat trick of healthy scratches for Skinner.

The former 40-goal scorer is clearly opting to take the high road and not rehash the bad feelings and animus in the public view. What’s said in the room stays in the room.

Skinner was asked if he and Krueger see things eye to eye and if he would prefer to play for another NHL team.

To the former questions, Skinner answered:

"No. I love being a Sabre. I love the city of Buffalo. I wouldn't have chosen to stay here if that wasn't case, so that answer is simple."

To the latter question, Skinner said:

"I try and help the team win as much as I can. That's my main focus. Obviously, the coach is trying to do that, too."

Skinner added: "He (Krueger) has 23 other guys to worry about. He has a team to coach. I just have to play hockey."

"It's not relevant really whether we agree on everything."

"In this league, there's a lot of ups and downs. The situation as a whole, it's something that obviously there's a lot of emotions involved. You try to take time to digest that."

Skinner told media that it is time to look through the windshield and not through the rearview mirror.

"The most important thing is to keep moving forward and having a positive attitude, working hard while trying to get better," Skinner said. "I've watched a lot of hockey games and played in a lot of hockey games, obviously, and I don't think you can learn anything extra by not being out there. But obviously, this situation is maybe not that straightforward in the fact that "lessons being learned" is maybe more of a vague concept."

Skinner said he is willing to put his teammates ahead of his own festering situation with his head coach. Skinner scoring goals and helping his team to win hockey games sooner than later against East Division rivals is the only thing that matters right now.

"All I know is, for me, I'm trying to help the team win as much as I can," Skinner said adamantly. "That's my main focus. Obviously the coach is trying to win games too and I think we can agree on that. For me, that's my number one focus, which is helping the team win and that's what I'm going to continue to do as much as I can."

The Sabres will host the Philadelphia Flyers for matinee games on Saturday and Sunday.

I fully and completely expect to see Jeff Skinner back in the Buffalo lineup. Will he be riding shotgun on the fourth line per usual? I don't think so. My guess is that the phone meeting that Sabres GM Kevyn Adams had with Skinner's agent Don Meehan, one of the most powerful men in pro hockey for the past 30-plus years, will yield better usage and deployment assignments for Skinner.


Krueger said that captain Jack Eichel was given the day off on Friday and is listed as day-to-day with the mysterious LBI he sustained during warm-ups on Thursday night. Eichel was made a healthy scratch on Thursday night moments before the opening faceoff was dropped.

Forward Toby Rieder will likely return to the lineup on Saturday, and, the greatest news of all is that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will likely make his return to the lineup this weekend against Philly. Ristolainen skated with new partner in rookie Jacob Bryson on Friday. Ralph Krueger liked what he saw of the feisty Finn and said Ristolainen is a "possibility" to return to the lineup this weekend after missing the last seven games following the return to play after the Sabres were forced into COVID quarantine that caused the team to have to postpone and reschedule eight games. Ristolainen tested positive for COVID-19 and his journey with the deadly virus was very scary and harrowing. Its great to see Ristolainen is symptom-free and feeling like his old self again.

While Kruger and Skinner were speaking with media on Friday, starting goalie Linus Ullmark was getting an MRI performed on his lower body injury (groin/hamstring). Ullmark suffered the injury making a save in the first period on Thursday night. Ullmark stopped all 15 shots he faced during the first period then stayed on the pine for the final forty minutes of play.

Carter Hutton entered the game in relief of Ullmark and allowed four goals on the 25 shots he faced. The Devils scored three even strength and one power play goal on Ullmark.

Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has desperately needed to upgrade his goaltending this season. If Ullmark's MRI reveals bad news, Adams will have to trade a forward in exchange for a veteran puck stopper. Hutton is not the answer for a long term run for the Sabres. The Sabres have veteran journeyman Dustin Tokarski on their practice squad, however, he’s not a long term solution. Nor is Rochester Amerks goalie Jonas Johansson, who had a dreadful training camp. Then? There’s goalie prospect Ukko Pekka Luukkonen, who is the value of the future for the Sabres. UPL has played only three games this season in Rochester. Is UPL an option to help the Sabres make the playoffs? It’s a slim chance at best considering the big Finn still need more starts in the AHL.

Keep and eye on Vancouver GM Jim Benning, who is willing to trade Stanley Cup winning goalie Braden Holtby in exchange for a top nine forward and a forward on a low AAV deal.

Holtby, 31, his stabilized his game after a slow start to this season. In 10 games, Holtby has a 3.51 GAA and .893 SV%.

Canucks tendy Thatcher Demko has started 14 games, has a .901 SV% and is the long term answer in goal for the Canucks. Trading Holtby for forward depth may be the answer for the struggling Canucks, who find themselves in sixth place in the Oh, Canada division, and four points out of a playoff berth.

If Adams has to place Ullmark on LTIR, look for Buffalo to skate hard at Holtby, who has one year remaining on his two-year bridge deal at $4.3M AAV. Ullmark earns $2.6M AAV.

The Sabres can send forward Tage Thompson and forward J.S. Dea or C.J. Smith to Vancouver.

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